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Engineering Entrepreneurship: Learning by Doing

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Student Entrepreneurial Skills and Mindset I

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.586.1 - 22.586.23

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Paper Authors


Erik Sander University of Florida

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Erik Sander began his career as a Project Manager and Senior Engineer analyzing advanced fighter aircraft engines and the Space Shuttle Main Engine for NASA, Lockheed Martin, General Electric, and Pratt & Whitney. He was also a Technology Transfer Officer for Lockheed Martin and the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Starting in 1995, Erik joined the faculty of the University of Florida College of Engineer as Director of the University Center, Associate Director for the Engineering Research Center and the Florida Energy Systems Consortium, and Director of Industry Programs - all directed at fostering industrial collaboration, entrepreneurship, and technology commercialization across a $100M research base. He also manages the UF-High Tech Corridor research fund, providing investments in high tech company R&D collaborations. Erik was a Principal for Cenetec Ventures, a private technology incubator and early stage venture fund and, along the way, he grew several start-up companies in areas ranging from real estate development to technology deployment. From 2005 - 2009, Erik served as President of V2R Group, a university technology commercialization company that provides funding and executive level services to growing companies in markets from information technologies to medical devices. Erik serves as a professor of entrepreneurship at the graduate level for the University of Florida College of Engineering.

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Engineering Entrepreneurship: Learning by Doing This paper describes an entrepreneurship course targeted to graduate engineering students andworking professionals of all engineering disciplines which mimics, as completely as feasible inan academic environment, the real world experiences of enterprise formation and growth. Thecourse structure includes executive team formation, building the company, and fundraisingthrough multiple capital rounds. Each graduate student takes dual roles of company executiveand technology investor. Participants invest in each other’s enterprises at valuations negotiatedbetween the students themselves as both investors and entrepreneurs. Critically, at the end ofeach semester, external investors and serial entrepreneurs review final presentations and“acquire” each student company, providing an Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for each student asa technology entrepreneur and also as a technology investor based on dilution through threerounds of fundraising and company acquisition terms.The Entrepreneurship for Engineers course is designed to introduce engineering graduatestudents of all disciplines, company engineers, and engineering managers to the concepts andpractices of entrepreneurial thinking and entrepreneurship through an immersive, real worldentrepreneurial experience. Using a combination of lectures, case studies, team business plans,and investor presentation formats, the course teaches life skills in entrepreneurial thought andaction that students can utilize in careers ranging from starting companies to planning andexecuting high risk R&D projects in large companies. The course is firmly presented in a “real-world” format, including students taking the roles of company founders and investors, creating avision and execution plan for their company, and raising funds – exactly as they would in a trueentrepreneurial endeavor.Major Course Themes include: • Introduction to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thought processes • Entrepreneurial idea generation and feasibility analysis • Entrepreneurial business development (market analysis, product development, marketing, operations, HR, legal, intellectual property, accounting, capitalization, etc.) • Business planning and executionStudent Learning Outcomes include: • An understanding of the basics of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thought processes • Team-based, real-world experiences in working as an entrepreneurial executive team to explore entrepreneurial processes including building and executing on a business plan • Project planning and presentation skills through teaming experiencesThis course has been offered to graduate students from all engineering departments, and workingengineering professionals through distance education, since fall 2003. In that time timeframe,over 400 graduate engineering students have taken the course, which is fully subscribed eachsemester. The university assesses each course at the end of every semester through variousqualitative as well as 27 quantitative criteria and the results for this course since 2003, givenbelow, show that the course content and instruction methodology are considered to be of veryhigh value by the students, being ranked well above the College of Engineering mean score in all27 assessed categories.Figure 1 – Entrepreneurship for Engineers course assessment 2003-2010: Comparison to allCollege of Engineering course composite mean scoresStudent Survey Question Key:Questions 1-9 refer to the course instructor knowledge, teaching skills, effectiveness, etc.Question 10 refers to the overall rating for the instructorQuestions 11-26 refer to the course structure, materials, usefulness, etc.Question 27 refers to the overall value of the courseAll student survey questions will be included as part of a full paper submission. 

Sander, E. (2011, June), Engineering Entrepreneurship: Learning by Doing Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC.

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